Solo travel: the ultimate in life experiences
(Edge of London)
My first trip was after a breakup to Sweden. It was magical exploring areas off the tourist maps (such as Norkopping), being able to touch the moss covered trees and wade in one of the many crystal clear lakes, empty for miles around with only deer for company, and tall pine trees.
My next trip was after my biggest heartbreak so far, to Greece. I went to little known Sporades Islands, where I began the slow process of healing. I connected deeply with a couple of people, and for the first time swam in the sea, in deep sea caves gleaming deep blue. I got over my lifelong fear of large bodies of water, and swam so far out it was a wonder I could make it back. I saw dolphins, and felt sea spray in my face, fed fearless fish with my hands - my spirit resonates strongly with this place, and I will return when I am older, likely to live.
My next trip, which unexpectedly turned solo, was with the man who broke my heart - to Italy (the things we do for love). The time we initially spent together was a disaster, but when I struck out by myself, in a quiet seaside town with mountains looming, I found it liberating (despite the immense pain I felt). I fell in love with the town, left Italy with mixed feelings, determined to return to wipe the slate clean.
I just returned from my latest trip (to south Italy), and I feel so strange, like I'm observing someone else go through the motions of 'daily life'. I've had lots of thoughts about "this tangled web we weave"- what we consider "real life". I realised on this trip how powerful a connection we can have with fellow humans, and how much you can come to know yourself. It changes everything - I've got rid of most of my belongings (living from a backpack helps you realise you really don't need much), and I am cutting out all unnecessary spending, just so I can be off again in a couple of months. I am also saving up for a solo trek (a pilgrimage of sorts, despite being non-religious) in 2012 for ~ 6 months.
Being off the beaten path can be a devastatingly strange experience - shaking you to the core of your being, but it is an unbeatable experience; the depth of life just opens up to you - you can see life in so many different ways, and lots of things that people harp on about in 'normal life' are shown to be trivial. Even the difficulties of communicating in the language were trivial - I learned to communicate from my soul, and I found there were like-minded individuals, with whom I could connect, even without words. I felt like I had blessed them with my presence, and they had blessed me with theirs. I did a lot of journalling, and found a lot more questions were raised within me - life is really not as certain as we tend to think. Even my thoughts on love and marriage have significantly changed. So it's hard re-adjusting.
Travelling in Puglia, smelling the wonderful aroma as rain hit the earth, and the sun came out to dry it all off, trekking on the mountains and smelling the "Oh my goodness, can oregano smell that good"? Or hearing the distant clang of the bells of mountain goats. Or tasting the mussels just caught by a fisherman selling right out of his boat. Watching the animals laze in the sun - huge dogs relaxing out in the sun, cats warming themselves on the hot beach sand, sometimes you're not quite sure you're not dreaming - Puglia and Lazio are less well known, and I'm glad for it, because they've captured my heart. I'm glad I travel alone, because you are exposed to the core of yourself, warts and all. All your fears about loneliness, about heartbreak and pain are faced resolutely, and you are stronger for it. I feel I am saying goodbye to the fearful person I was, and facing life, a little wobbly, but more determined to live my life the way I feel it shoud be lived.